By now you must know that smoking is a major contributing factor to hypertension, but do you know how exactly it causes high blood pressure? Can quitting smoking improve your BP levels? Read on to learn more.
How Does Smoking Increase Blood Pressure?
Smoking is an important contributor to and a major risk factor for hypertension. It can have both short term and long term adverse effects on your blood pressure levels.
Short-term effects of smoking on blood pressure
When you smoke, you inhale nicotine into your lungs with the smoke. Nicotine is a toxic substance that acts as a central nervous system stimulant. It causes your body to release a hormone called epinephrine (adrenaline). Epinephrine, along with nicotine, increases your heart rate and constricts your blood vessels, which leads to a temporary but substantial increase in your blood pressure levels.
However, sometimes nicotine can act as a central nervous system depressant after the initial stimulation and release of epinephrine. This can lead to most smokers exhibiting normal to lower levels of blood pressure in the initial stages of their addiction. This decrease in blood pressure is also compounded by the weight loss that is seen in a majority of smokers. Nicotine inhalation suppresses hunger and curbs your appetite, which causes you to lose weight. This reduction in your body weight can lead to low blood pressure levels as the pressure exerted by your body mass on your arteries reduces. This initial lowering of blood pressure is not beneficial, however, as long-term smoking can significantly increase your risk of developing chronic metabolic disorders, several types of cancers, respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, and other health conditions.
Long-term effects of smoking on blood pressure
Tobacco in cigarettes contains carbon and when burnt produces carbon monoxide. Smoking increases nicotine and carbon monoxide content in your blood, which can be detrimental to your health in the long run. Nicotine can harden your blood vessels, which increases the pressure exerted by your blood on your arterial walls as it flows through them. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that can be harmful to your health when inhaled in smaller doses and can lead to death in higher doses. Carbon monoxide can cause a permanent change in the structure of your arterial walls. This makes you more likely to develop plaque, which is a build-up of cholesterol and fats from your diet along with calcium, cell debris, white blood cells, etc. Plaque build-up can cause your arteries to become stiff and narrow, which impedes blood flow to major organs. This hardening and narrowing of your arteries can further increase your blood pressure and make you more likely to develop hypertension, heart diseases, stroke, etc.
What are the Other Ill-Effects of Smoking on Your Health?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco use is responsible for more than 8 million deaths around the world every year. Most cigarettes and tobacco products contain several toxic chemicals and harmful substances like arsenic, tar, formaldehyde, benzene, and heavy metals like cadmium and chromium. Inhaling these chemicals can take a severe toll on your body. Regular consumption of tobacco products can lead to the following health conditions.
- Smoking is the primary cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as it damages your respiratory tract. Smoking can also exacerbate existing respiratory problems as carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen present in your blood.
- Most of the chemicals used in the making of tobacco products are carcinogenic, and can lead to cancers of the lungs, mouth, throat, skin, liver, urinary bladder, blood and lymphatic system, etc.
- Nicotine increases insulin resistance in your cells, which puts you at a heightened risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
- Smoking increases the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides (fat) in your blood, while lowering the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol present. This can lead to atherosclerosis (build-up of plaque in the arteries, making them stiff and narrow), which increases your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- As smoking makes your blood vessels stiff and narrow, it can slow down blood circulation throughout your body and reduce or cut-off blood supply to major organs.
- The threat of cardiovascular diseases caused by smoking is especially high in women who take oral contraceptive medication
- Smoking makes you more likely to develop blood clots, as it increases your platelet count and makes them more prone to stick and clump together. Thus, smoking exponentially increases your chances of having a stroke or a heart attack.
- Tobacco consumption can also weaken your immune system, making you vulnerable to recurrent infections, especially in the respiratory tract.
- Chronic or long-term smoking can cause infertility in both men and women.
- Smoking can lead to erectile dysfunction in men, due to narrowed blood vessels and poor circulation.
- Smoking can cause women of the reproductive age (mid-teens to mid-40s) to experience menopause sooner.
- Smoking interferes with the absorption of essential nutrients in your gut. Hence, smokers are more likely to be underweight or experience nutritional deficiencies.
- Smoking can also affect the metabolism of medicines in your body, which makes them less effective.
- Regular tobacco consumption can dull your sense of taste and smell. It can also damage your eyesight.
- Tobacco use can also affect your oral, skin, and hair health.
- Nicotine is highly addictive and withdrawal can lead to mood swings, anxiety, irritability, etc.
These are just some of the effects that smoking can have on your health, as more research is being conducted on the consequences of smoking on the human body.
How Does Quitting Smoking Impact Your Health?
Stopping tobacco use has been shown to greatly improve the health of even longtime smokers. You can feel the following effects on your health within a few days to months of quitting smoking.
- Improved ease of breathing and an increase in the oxygen content in your blood.
- Weight gain and better absorption of vitamins and minerals in your body, which generally lead to the resolution of nutritional deficiencies.
- Increased insulin sensitivity in your cells, which contributes to better glycaemic control.
- Normalised blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, which decrease your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases or stroke.
- Relaxation of arteries and improved blood circulation throughout your body.
- Strengthening of your immune system.
- Reduction in your chances of developing cancer or respiratory conditions like COPD.
How Can You Quit Smoking?
If you are trying to quit smoking, seek help from your family, friends, or a support group to stay motivated through your journey. Though you can try to quit smoking by yourself, the chances of relapse are higher when you do it alone. The best way would be to consult a physician, psychologist, or a de-addiction specialist who can help you formulate a plan of action. Your physician can prescribe medication or nicotine replacement therapy (replacing cigarettes with nicotine patches, gum, tablets, inhalers, etc.) to help you quit smoking.
When to See a Doctor?
You should consult a physician if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms of high blood pressure that can be exacerbated by smoking.
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat
- Blurred vision, etc.
As smoking can cause dramatic increases in blood pressure levels, seek immediate medical attention if you feel ill or if your blood pressure is over 180/120 mmHg (hypertensive crisis).
Don’t Have Time To Read?
- Smoking can have short-term and long–term consequences on your blood pressure levels.
- In the short-term, nicotine can trigger the release of adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and constricts your blood vessels, thus increasing your blood pressure levels.
- In the long-term, nicotine can cause your arteries to harden, and carbon monoxide in cigarettes can encourage plaque build-up in your arteries, leading to them becoming clogged and narrow. This also increases your blood pressure levels.
- Besides increasing your BP, smoking can also increase your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, stroke, cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, and respiratory illnesses like COPD.
- Smoking can also cause weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, infertility, erectile dysfunction in men, early menopause in women, weaken your immune system, increase your cholesterol levels, and make you more prone to developing blood clots.
- Quitting smoking can have several health benefits for smokers as it decreases their risk of stroke, heart disease, and cancer. Quitting tobacco use also improves their breathing, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, while also improving the absorption of nutrients in their body.
- Seeking help from family and friends, or a healthcare professional can help you stop smoking.
- Medication and nicotine replacement therapy can be effective ways to quit smoking and prevent relapse.
- Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading cardiologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate BP monitors and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Hypertension Management Program which provides 360º care. Let’s treat low/high blood pressure problems together.
Friendly Asked Questions
Yes, the nicotine in cigarettes can cause an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. It can also cause your arteries to become stiff and narrow, which further increases your blood pressure.
Yes, quitting smoking can help lower your blood pressure levels. By stopping smoking, you are lowering the amount of nicotine and carbon monoxide in your body. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor (narrows your blood vessels), and carbon monoxide causes structural changes and damage to your arteries, both of which can lead to high BP. Thus by quitting smoking, you can lower your blood pressure levels.
Depending on how much and how frequently you smoke, you can see changes in your blood pressure after a few hours or days of quitting smoking.